Washington Football

Falcons determined to avoid letdown against Lions

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Falcons determined to avoid letdown against Lions

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Thursday was an ugly, rainy day at Atlanta's practice facility - a perfect setting for the Falcons to be reminded they can make sure they don't play another game outdoors this season.

That's added motivation to avoid a letdown in Saturday night's game at Detroit's Ford Field.

The Falcons (12-2) can secure home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs by beating the Lions. They play their final regular-season game against Tampa Bay next week in the Georgia Dome. The Super Bowl in New Orleans also will be played in a dome.

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon had a big smile taking about how a win at Detroit would mean there would be no chance of a January game in Seattle's rain or Green Bay's snow.

``That's awesome,'' Weatherspoon said. ``We have a lot to play for. It should be fun.''

The Falcons have painful memories of their last road game, a Dec. 9 loss at Carolina that followed a home win over the Saints.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez said players must respond better to last week's impressive 34-0 win over the Giants.

``Our focus going into that game was the best it's been all year,'' Gonzalez said. ``We have to have that type of effort week in and week out for the rest of the season. That's what good teams do in December, it's what they do in the playoffs, and ultimately Super Bowl championship teams. They have great focus throughout the week because that's what helps you win the game.''

This week's schedule left little time to savor the shutout of New York. Because they play on Saturday night, the Falcons started their practice schedule on Tuesday, their normal off day. Thursday's one-hour practice at the team's indoor facility was like the normal Friday workout.

``We've had times like this before,'' receiver Harry Douglas said Thursday. ``We've had a Thursday night game and a Monday night game, and we don't look at it like a distraction. When we had practice on Tuesday, in my mind it was already Wednesday. I got my mind right on Monday.''

Atlanta's two losses have come on the road - at New Orleans on Nov. 11 and the disappointing 30-20 defeat at Carolina on Dec. 9.

Gonzalez said the loss at Carolina should be a lesson as the Falcons prepare to play a 4-10 Detroit team that has lost six straight games.

``You can't just show up and think you're going to beat a team,'' Gonzalez said. ``Maybe we learned that against Carolina. Maybe that loss was something good for us. It's something that I think we learn from our mistakes and we keep moving forward.''

Weatherspoon said there was no mention of the Carolina game this week.

``No, we didn't go back that far,'' Weatherspoon said. ``We just tried to focus on what we did last week in preparation and we want to kind of imitate that this week. If you practice the right way, you should have a pretty good outing.''

The Falcons would clinch home-field advantage just by splitting their final two regular-season games. They've resisted any suggestion that this isn't a must-win game.

``Don't leave anything to chance,'' said running back Michael Turner. ``We control our own destiny and we want to leave it in our hands.

``I think we learned our lesson from the Carolina game. We are not taking anything for granted. We've still got work to do. We've still got things to get better at. We are going to take this like they are going to give us their best shot. We know that. Everybody tends to play better in prime time.''

NOTES: WR Roddy White (right knee) had limited participation in practice after behind held out on Wednesday. SS William Moore (hamstring) has not practiced all week and could miss his third straight game. Reserve DE Cliff Matthews (hamstring) also was held out. DT Jonathan Babineaux (ribs), OT Tyson Clabo (thigh) and CB Christopher Owens (hamstring) had limited participation.

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Making a case for Warriors as Washington Football Team's new name

Making a case for Warriors as Washington Football Team's new name

It's been several weeks since the Washington Football Team announced it was retiring its former name and logo after more than 80 years. Ever since FedEx became the first known sponsor to formally ask Washington to change its name, fans have taken to social media to voice some of their favorites among potential replacements. I spoke with several marketing experts about a few of the fan-generated names, and will use their responses to make a case for some of the most popular suggestions. This is the case for Red Hogs.

Case for: Washington Warriors

When it comes to the Washington Football Team, developing a new brand has as much to do with separating itself from the previous identity as it does creating a new one.

While the team’s previous moniker provided a sense of pride and joy to some people, it was considered derogatory by others. Those offended by the name had expressed resentment for decades before the team finally decided to take action this summer. But the team only did so after its bottomline was at risk of taking a hit by corporate sponsors threatening to end their relationships with the team.

If Washington wants people to take its rebrand seriously and view it as more than a money-saving play, the team will need to completely distance itself from Native American imagery. That being considered, is Warriors a good choice as the replacement name? It depends, says Tim Derdenger, associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business.

“It depends on which direction you go with it,” Derdenger said. “I’ve read things that they want to keep the feather and go in that direction as opposed to a military warrior, more of the Indian warrior. And if they do it the latter, they’re completely missing the mark on why they’re changing their name.”

CONCEPTS: TOP 5 NEW FAN-GENERATED WASHINGTON WARRIORS LOGOS

This conundrum highlights the different things that have to be considered when undergoing a name change. It isn’t just the name; it’s also the logo, the branding on team gear and uniforms, the stadium atmosphere, the fan experience, and so much more. If the team was able to rebrand itself as the Warriors without singling out a specific race or group of people, the name could work. The Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association have a great brand and don’t use human imagery at all, going with the Bay Bridge as their primary logo.

Matt White, president of WHITE64, pointed to Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder's background in advertising and branding as a reason he thinks the team could pull it off.

“I think what you have to do is, do it in a thoughtful, logical manner, where you’re hiring a firm, which he has relationships with that can really do a great job,” White said.

The option for thoughtful branding exists in a way for "Warriors" that it doesn’t for a name like "Braves." Some fans had tossed around the latter as an option because of its history as the Washington franchise’s original name for one season in 1932, when the team was still located in Boston. But that’s a piece of history most fans likely forgot, if they ever knew it. And a Brave, by definition, is specifically a Native American warrior. The name doesn’t allow for a change in branding the same way Warriors does.

“The Cleveland Indians are already being asked to change their name. The Atlanta Braves apparently are even being looked at with that,” White said. “And again, there’s gotta be a solution that doesn’t offend somebody but that can still capture the spirit.”

CONCEPTS: TOP 5 NEW FAN-GENERATED WASHINGTON WARRIORS UNIFORM DESIGNS

That's where Warriors could be used, like Braves, to appease the base of fans who never wanted to part with the old moniker. However, Brad Nierenberg, the CEO of RedPeg Marketing, thinks choosing that name is also a choice to please those particular fans over the people who want to see a clean break. 

“If you’re gonna stay close with the Redskins, I think you’re gonna be staying with a fan base that ... you’re gonna placate the challenge to changing the name, then the Warriors and Braves are gonna be that next step,” Nierenberg said.

“I think there’s gonna be people saying they didn’t go far enough. That’s my gut.”

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This is where everything else that accompanies the name change becomes so vital. Because while it’s likely true everyone won’t be happy with Warriors, it’s possible to win over a few more people with the proper branding and imagery.

"The logo is then going to be the key part,” Derdenger said. “And what that logo will look like and how it connects back to the military warrior.

“I can’t right now see in my head what a Warriors logo looks like. ... But they have to go away from the connection to the Native Americans.”

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Orioles bats nearly non-existent once again in third-straight loss to motivated, reconstructed Marlins

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Orioles bats nearly non-existent once again in third-straight loss to motivated, reconstructed Marlins

At around 10 p.m. Wednesday night, the Orioles finally squeezed out a run, seemingly by divine intervention. 

It happened when a chopper from outfielder Austin Hays bounced off two Marlins infielders and into the outfield which allowed Anthony Santander to score and cut the lead in half. The problem was, it was the Orioles’ first run of the game, third hit of the game and ninth hit of the series. 

The Orioles, up until Hays’ single, had gone 21 ⅔ scoreless innings against a Marlins team that had 18 replacement players from its Opening Day roster due to an outbreak of COVID-19. The Marlins were a team that had to find pitchers that were simply available to throw major league innings, and they retired Orioles batters consistently through the first three games of the series.

Baltimore, operating as the road team at Camden Yards for the second half of a doubleheader, lost their third-straight in a 2-1 loss to the Marlins. The fourth game of the series will be Thursday. 

“I don’t want to take credit away from their guys, I thought they pieced it together fairly nicely out of the pen giving us some different looks,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “I don’t know if we’re trying too hard, or...I’m not what it is, to be honest with you. It’s one of those little funks that we’ve gone through in a couple days.”

Ever since the second game of the season against the Red Sox, the Orioles have swung the bat particularly well, better than most thought they could. But all of those bats went silent after a series sweep of the Rays on Sunday, a series victory that left some with a brief, optimistic scenario that the Orioles could contend for a playoff spot. 

Since that win over the Rays, though, the offense hasn’t just been quiet, it’s been silent. 

The Orioles were shut out Tuesday and in game one of the doubleheader Wednesday in 4-0 and 1-0 losses, respectively. Were it not for Hays’ single, it would’ve been three straight games with a zero on the scoreboard.

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“I can’t really put my finger on it,” Hyde said. “We’re not driving the baseball. I think guys are trying to do too much, carrying too big of a load, instead of trying to get the next guy up instead of trying to win every pitch. We’re having a tough time just getting on base to start a rally and putting good ABs together after it.”

After blazing starts to the year, some of the Orioles’ best hitters have hit a cold streak at the same time against a Marlins team that was cramped in a hotel room for more than a week.

Anthony Santander is just 2-for-10 in the series, Jose Iglesias and Rio Ruiz have been hampered by injuries and Hanser Alberto, after a staggering start to the year, is 0-for-11 in the series. 

“It’s not fun,” Iglesias said. “We just lost two games, but I think we’ve got to move forward. Tomorrow is another day. We’re going to get an opportunity to play the game and come back.”

But while the bats have failed, the pitching has thrived. In that regard, it makes the previous few days that much more infuriating for the Orioles.

In the last three games, the starters have been excellent. John Means, Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski have combined to throw 14 ⅔ innings and have allowed just eight hits, four earned runs and four walks. They’ve struck out 15 batters, too, as both Means and Cobb each allowed just one run in their starts. 

All three pitchers, however, received losses. 

“I don’t have an explanation for it except I really like the way we’re pitching,” Hyde said. “I think our offense will come around. I don’t think we’re going one run in three games continuously. We have proven we can score runs and we can swing the bats against really good pitchers. This series, for whatever reason, we’re not driving the baseball. We’re not grinding out at-bats the way that we did against the teams we played before.”

The Marlins, who are now 5-1, have seemingly released all their pent up energy through the team’s pitching staff. 

The Orioles, who dropped to 5-6 with the three losses, simply haven’t had an answer for a Marlins team that came out of quarantine with a stout pitching staff.

“I’ve been impressed with their pitching, for those guys to be shut down in a hotel and throw the way they’ve been throwing, they’ve done a nice job,” Hyde said. “I don’t think we’ve helped them out, I think we’ve expanded the strike zone, but I think they’ve come out with energy and we haven’t scored any runs.”

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